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Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Mayor's Infrastructure Stimulus Wish List...prepare to be Underwhelmed

Pittsburgh's mayor Luke Ravenstahl released his list of projects for the Obama administration's massive infrastructure program, which should should go into effect as early as Obama's first month in office.. The mayor announced his plan amid criticism from members of Pittsburgh city council, who were upset that the mayor did not submit the city's wish list to the US Conference of Mayors in time to be included in the group's Jobs and Infrastructure Report, although 427 other cities were able to do so. You can view that report here.

My first reaction after looking over the list of 110 projects was "Where is the green?" and "Where are the transit projects?" Where are the big and bold ideas for light rail and commuter rail, like the things we have proposed as part of CityLive's Transportation Wiki? I've compared Pittsburgh's list to the wishlists of other cities, such as Miami, which asked for funding for $3.4 in projects, including $280 million on a new streetcar system, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, which requested $2.3 billion in funding, with over $1 billion of that money being earmarked for renewable energy projects. Below is a list of the ten cities which requested the most money for infrastructure projects. (The jobs figures are so inflated that you shouldn't even pay mind to them)

Again, the mayor's plan left me asking for plans to expand the light rail to Oakland, or a massive plan for citywide energy efficiency initiatives, like Councilman Peduto's LED lighting plan. To be fair, a lot of the projects on the mayor's list are essential and are long overdue. Our sewer systems should have been upgraded decades ago, and Pittsburgh is not alone as many cities across the US are asking for money for water and waste related projects. But when looking for true green projects I only found a handful that even come close to being considered "green". These projects included bike trails, LED lighting along the trails, and new parks and green spaces. These 10 projects, listed below, represent $38 million of the $1.02 billion in requested funds, meaning only 3.3 % of the total that Mayor Ravenstahl is requesting is going to projects that will make Pittsburgh a greener city. This is a joke when stacked up against other cities, both larger and smaller than Pittsburgh, who realize that projects focused on renewable energy and energy efficiency, not to mention CO2 reductions, will be at the top of the Obama's administration's list of priorities.

A friend, who had reviewed the list earlier today, sent me an email with the following:

Where’s the leadership? Where’s the innovation? The imagination? Where’s the $%@$ creativity or inspiration?

That’s just a rote $%#@ laundry list of stuff that came out of the backs of reports that have been filed away in the City-County Building for years.
My thoughts exactly. As I said earlier, the mayor's plan does address some essential fixes to things which are in dire need of upgrades, but anyone who has been living in Pittsburgh for a few years could have recommended those projects. These are not the big bold ideas that we need to "move Pittsburgh forward", as the mayor likes to say often. Obama's stimulus plan will be an unprecedented opportunity to improve our transportation system and finally build out our light rail network, which still only serves the South Hills and downtown Pittsburgh. Other cities have put forth bold ideas that will make them more competitive not only here in the US but on a global scale as well. Like every other issue, this one shows the glaring weakness of Pittsburgh : the lack of bold leadership from our top public officials.

The complete list of projects can be viewed and downloaded to a spreadsheet from Swivel.com


jet said...

This starts my third year living in greater PGH and I am still regularly surprised at just how broken local government is. We couldn't even submit a proposal on time? We have major universities working in leed/green space and we can't come up with any sort of innovation?

BMartin said...

Wow Luke really dropped the ball on this one. It seems like most of the projects have something to do with sewer repairs! That is going to make us one of the most sustainable cities in the US! Another disappointment from our city government. Thanks Luke. You are the best!

illyrias said...

Well, I'll be happy if we can get rid of the signs on the riverfront that warn about the sewer overflowing into the river during heavy rain...


Schultz said...

We will all be happy about that, but this post wasn't about bashing what is on the list, because as I said some critical infrastructure projects were included (and some ridiculous ones). Pretty much every big city that has provided a wish list has water and sewage projects on their lists, but most of those cities also have included transit projects other than "asphalt" like the line item on our list. Other cities are trying to fund light rail or streetcar projects.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for causing reflection...http://archizoo.wordpress.com/2008/12/26/a-pothole-in-obama%E2%80%99s-stimulus-plan/

sorna said...

Thanks for sharing, I will bookmark and be back again

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mikel pet said...

Has anyone stopped to think that some of these expensive road projects are not going to be needed? The money should be used for repairs and upkeep of what roads and bridges are out there needing i

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